The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


LONDON,—Having summarized the achievements of the UNO conference, I want now to say a few things about the personalities of the people with whom I've come in contact.

At the Assembly sessions, our delegation is seated next to the Russians. On the first day, I was delighted to find that next to me was V. V. Kuznetsov, president of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions of the USSR. He greeted me in a most friendly fashion, and I remembered that he had come to my apartment in New York one afternoon to interpret for a group of Russian women who were part of a workers' delegation sent over from Russia to visit some of our factories. It's funny how a little opportunity like this of seeing someone in your own home, even for a little while, makes you feel much more friendly with them.

That's one reason why I had one of my meetings with the other women delegates, alternates and advisers in my own sitting room here at the hotel instead of in a public room. It was so crowded that some of us had to sit on the floor but for that very reason, I think, we felt more at ease and better acquainted with each other.

To get back to the Russian delegation, I had met Ambassador Andrei Gromyko in Washington but had never had any long conversations with him. During this conference, I've seen him frequently and once had the pleasure of sitting next to him at lunch. All these little contacts do develop better understanding.

I begin to feel, in regard to my fellow committee member, Prof. Arutiunian, who presented Russia's side in the refugee debate, that we have a basis from which, with opportunity, we might develop a pleasant acquaintanceship. We have had honest differences of opinion, but I learned a great deal that will help me to understand the reasons for certain attitudes on the part of people who live in different surroundings and therefore have a different sense of values. Neither Prof. Arutiunian nor I has questioned the sincerity of the convictions held by the other, and that is the basis on which understanding can be built, I believe.

* * *

In the British delegation, which sits in front of ours at the Assembly sessions, I've watched Philip Noel-Baker with particular interest. His old association with and devotion to the League of Nations makes him, I think, extremely anxious for this new organization to succeed but, nevertheless, somewhat jealous for the accomplishments of the League and perhaps, at times, a little too much influenced by the past.

Since there is no language barrier between our delegation and the British group, we have a medium for understanding which greatly enhances our opportunities to reach similar conclusions. For instance, in our work in the Social Committee, we have differed occasionally but never really on fundamentals.

Sir George Rendel, chief British member of the committee, is very apt to find fault, usually quite correctly, with our English. At times, when he wished to change certain wording, I think the Russian delegate suspected him of some deep, nefarious plot to change the real meaning! I was much amused once when the Russian delegate supported me in a wording, which I knew was not very good English, because he said he could understand it better.

* * *

The leaders of the French delegation always speak with distinction, and their language in itself is beautiful. I've been interested to see Paul Boncour come to the rostrum of the Assembly on several occasions. I think he has one of the finest heads I've ever seen and a very beautiful expression. However, because France is one of the nations of Europe that has a long, hard struggle before it, one senses a certain cynicism and weariness in her older statesmen.

I like very much indeed the young French woman who has served on the Social Committee. She seemed, at times, a little over-earnest and concerned, but I think that was because she understood no English and, in trying to follow the discussions, her brows would knit and she'd shake her head as though to say, "I have no idea what you are talking about."

I've seen something of a good many of the women who are here—probably because there are so few of them. Mrs. Verwey from the Netherlands is a most able and attractive young woman. Her mind is keen, she grasps quickly the points which her advisers make, and then puts them before her audience concisely and clearly. This is a valuable gift.

I find that, if anything, the men here take more words to express their thoughts than the women do. The answer will doubtless be that they have more thoughts to express! I'm quite willing to grant that men, on the whole, have accomplished more in the art of oratory than have women, but if you want to get work done quickly, oratory is not half so important as putting your thoughts clearly, taking up as little time as possible, and never speaking unless you have something that really needs to be said.



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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 13, 1946

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.